In its quest to explore more interactive media formats, Facebook is today introducing a new feature called 360 Photos, which lets people share immersive photos that can be controlled and viewed from different angles by the viewer.
Available on the web, Android, and iOS, 360 Photos can be created by capturing a panoramic photo on your smartphone or by snapping a 360-degree photo through a dedicated app or 360-degree camera. You can then share the photo through Facebook, as you would any other piece of media, and the app converts the file into the relevant format for Facebook’s News Feed. The 360 Photos are marked by a little compass icon, and you can maneuver the photo around by tilting your phone, swiping with your finger, or clicking-and-dragging with a mouse (desktop).
Those with a Samsung Gear VR-compatible phone may also see a “View in VR” option, meaning they can slip their Samsung device into their Oculus-powered Gear VR headset and control the view by moving their head.
Today’s news comes nine months after Facebook rolled out support for 360-degree videos, with support from the likes of Discovery, GoPro, Saturday Night Live, and Disney’s Star Wars. And, back in April, news emerged that Facebook had built its own 360-degree camera, with Mark Zuckerberg going on to post the company’s first self-produced 360-degree video.
While 360-degree videos are undoubtedly immersive, they’re not quite so easy to create without a dedicated camera. Nokia recently launched the Ozo VR camera, which ships for a cool $60,000, though there are much cheaper ones available for amateurs. But with 360 Photos, what Facebook has on its hands is a mass-market “anyone can play” product it hopes will turn what would have been a 3-second glance at a static photo into a 20-second immersive interaction.
The new 360 Photos feature will be landing over the next few days, though you will be able to view 360 Photos from today on the web and mobile — Facebook is working with a number of well-known “brands,” including Paul McCartney, the New York Times, and NASA, all of whom will be sharing 360 Photos from today.